'Our brothers in arms...Our terrible loss' - Community reeling following death of two teenage friends (15) in quarry tragedy
A teenage boy who drowned in an 80ft-deep quarry was making a desperate bid to save his friend who had got into difficulty.
The two secondary school students both lost their lives in the tragedy which happened as the country baked in hot sunshine yesterday afternoon.
Jack Kenneally and Shay Moloney, both 15, were among a group of youngsters who had been swimming in an abandoned quarry near Knockanean just a short distance from Ennis.
The two teenagers were pronounced dead at University Hospital Limerick last night after being earlier airlifted to the hospital by the Shannon Coastguard helicopter.
Onlookers on the shore raised the alarm at around 3.30pm after both boys disappeared below the surface and didn't reappear. A major rescue operation was quickly launched.
But despite the best efforts of rescuers, it is understood they had been in the water for up to 30 minutes before they were brought to the surface.
An eye-witness told of the frantic efforts to rescue two teenagers from the water.
The local man phoned '999' after friends of the two teenagers shouted from across the water to get help.
A firefighter and a local man using diving equipment both made attempts to recover the boys who were lying on rocks under the deep water.
The witness said that he could hear young voices saying "hold him up, hold him up, hold him up".
Distressed friends of the two teenagers were also at the scene.
He said: "We responded as best as we could. It is terribly sad for the poor people."
Jack and Shay— Ennis Rugby Club (@EnnisRugby) June 1, 2018
Our brothers in arms. Our warriors when the going got tough. Our leaders when the pressure came on. Our pride when they took the field. Our joy when they lit it up off the field. Our devilment when it all got too serious. Our gentlemen always. Our terrible loss. pic.twitter.com/W1Qp9PZrIa
It is understood that both boys attended St Flannan's College in Ennis and were keen sportsmen. Jack Kenneally was a talented rugby player.
Local councillor, Mary Howard said she knows the families through sport in Ennis and said she is "absolutely heartbroken".
"Every summer we hear about people drowning in our rivers and lakes and at beaches, but you just don't think it's going to come to your own front door," she said.
"It's a parent's worst nightmare, my heart breaks for the family concerned. I'm in shock and everybody else is in shock," she added.
Ennis Rugby Club paid tribute to the two young boys in a poignant tweet on Friday morning.
"Our brothers in arms. Our warriors when the going got tough. Our leaders when the pressure came on. Our pride when they took the field," it read.
"Our joy when they lit it up off the field. Our devilment when it all got too serious. Our gentlemen always. Our terrible loss."
Ennis Community College released a statement this morning, saying they are “deeply saddened” following Jack’s death, and have implemented a critical incident management plan at the school.
“We are deeply saddened by his death. Our sympathy and thoughts are with Jack’s family and friends. May he Rest In Peace,” it read.
“This is a terrible tragedy for the Kenneally family, our school and our community.
“Jack was a talented rugby player and played for Ennis RFC.
“He was so proud of his achievements as we all were. Jack will be greatly missed by his fellow students and teachers.
“Offers of support have been pouring in and are greatly appreciated. Our school has implemented our Critical Incident Management Plan.
“Psychologists from the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) and Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board (LCETB) are supporting and advising teachers in their support of students and their families to deal with this terrible loss,” it added.
Senior Garda, Fire Service and Civil Defence officers attended the scene while gardaí travelled to the homes of the young men to advise their families of the incident.
Confirming the double drowning tragedy, Chief Superintendent John Kerin of the Clare Garda Division said: "It's a truly awful tragedy. Both were extremely popular and talented teenagers. Our hearts go out to their families."
He said: "They are in our thoughts and prayers. We urge all to only swim at locations with lifeguards."
His colleague, Inspector John Ryan said that it was a very distressing scene at the scene as the operation to rescue the two took place.
The body of water known as the 'Quarry' locally is a swimming blackspot.
There are signs at the entrance of the lands stating 'Danger - Deep Water - No Swimming' and 'Danger silt Pond, Deep Water, Keep Clear'.
The incident today follows the death of an Ennis school boy who drowned in the same body of water in the early 1980s.
A local man said "because it is a quarry, it is 60ft to 80ft deep in spots".
But after the majority of emergency services had left the scene following the rescue operation, two youths were still jumping from rocks into the water and swimming last night.
The man added: "You will have teenagers back here tomorrow if it is hot. I am living here 20 years and I don't see anyone paying heed to the signs yet."
Another local said: "When I heard the sirens and saw the helicopter my heart just sank. I knew it was the quarry. I just knew it wasn't good.
"The helicopter was on the ground for a good hour and took towards Limerick. It's awful altogether."
With the hot weather continuing into the bank holiday weekend, thousands of people have headed to parks, rivers and beaches in a bid to enjoy the sunshine and cool down.
But the RNLI and the Irish Coast Guard issued a joint statement cautioning that an improvement in the weather does not mean warmer water temperatures.
Irish waters rarely exceed 15C, making them cold enough year-round to trigger cold water shock, which can quickly lead to drowning.
A garda investigation into the tragic double drowning incident in Ennis is now being carried out.